It’s getting a little harder for movie theater owners to boast that they offer an entertainment bargain. The average outlay to watch a movie hit $8.12 in Q2, exceeding the previous quarterly high of $8.01 in the last three months of 2010, according to data released today by the National Association of Theater Owners. The ticket price figure represents the average consumer payment, so it reflects both rising fees that theaters charge as well as how many people pay the extra few bucks to see a movie in 3D or IMAX. By that measure, ticket prices fell in the second half of 2011 — by about 2.9% to an average of $7.83 in Q4. The trend began to change in this year’s Q1; the average ticket price was +1.1% to $7.92. But the price jumped another 2.5% in Q2 helped by 3D hits including Marvel’s The Avengers, Fox’s Prometheus, and Pixar’s Brave. But both the prices, and the rate of increase, vary greatly depending on location and theater chain. For example, Regal reported an average Q2 ticket price of $9.11, +3.2% vs Q1, while Carmike — which focuses on small to mid-sized markets — generated $6.91, +1%.

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